Volvo truck and car companies collaborate on live vehicle data
Geely-owned Volvo Cars has announced it will be sharing real-time traffic information with Volvo Trucks in a bid to improve safety levels and reduce accidents and incidents on the road. The pilot scheme is currently limited to those new vehicles from the Swedish manufactures that are sold in Sweden and Norway, but the two companies say there are plans to expand the venture to other manufacturers and countries in the future.
The research study—known as Connected Safety—is the first time that Volvo Cars has shared its safety-related data with another company, and it is the first step towards what the company calls “a critical mass of connected vehicles that could have a significant impact on overall traffic safety.”
Using vehicles equipped with Volvo’s Hazard Light Alert system, live and anonymous data relating to, for example, slippery road conditions, will be sent to and stored in the cloud, before a warning is transmitted to Volvos in the vicinity. Drivers will be alerted via an icon on the dashboard of their vehicle just before they reach the danger.
“Connected Safety is a pioneering area at Volvo Cars, and something we have been working on for around two years,” confirmed Jan Ivarsson, Director, Senior Technical Advisor, Safety. “We are sharing knowledge with our colleagues at Volvo Trucks, and believe that the area of connected safety would be a good cooperation to have with other OEMs (of automobiles and trucks). Following this pilot project in Sweden and Norway, we plan to move into other markets and work with other brands to improve connected safety in the future.”
“Slippery road conditions are sometimes difficult to spot—such as black ice—and, as we have been working with safety and crash investigation for a long time, we are using that expertise to try and improve the level of safety in our cars,” said Ivarsson. “At the moment, we are able to give the driver more information through road-sign notifications and warnings against fatigue. But through cars out in traffic, there is the option of providing feedback to road users that there are slippery conditions in the area. This information is reported through the car, but also in the Cloud, which means that other connected cars are notified before they reach the slippery road.
“When a symbol appears on [the] dashboard of the car or truck that has been warned about the danger, the onus is on the driver of that vehicle to take care and possibly take different routes, if necessary,” explained Ivarsson. “The information will be well ahead of the incident, typically about 100 m (on average) before the ‘danger zone,’ which means they are able to react to it and it is close enough to be fresh in their mind to not forget that the danger is there.
For its part, Volvo Trucks is relishing the opportunity to link with millions of other road users, to the benefit of road safety. The technology will be installed on all new FH, FM, and FMX (Volvo’s construction range) that were built after week 11 in 2018.
“It’s a large number of vehicles, and the predominant portion of what we manufacture. Starting in Sweden and Norway made sense because the roads are subject to slippery conditions, but it was also a good opportunity to find out how the system works,” said Carl Johan Almqvist, Traffic and Product Safety Director at Volvo Trucks. “The communications between the vehicles will happen wherever the trucks are in the world, but they have to be equipped with the functionality—so therefore ordered in either Sweden or Norway. And the driver must have an Internet connection to link to the safety system.”
While there is currently no possibility to retrofit the technology to enable Connected Safety on existing vehicles, Volvo says it is looking to see how it evolves, and what the demand is like. And both brands are not putting any targets on the number of accidents or fatalities being reduced through the advanced communication, but is adamant that it will make a difference.
“We know that these conditions can end in severe injury and fatalities. They are road conditions that are complicated for drivers, so any help we can give the drivers will be useful,” said Ivarsson.
In the future, the Volvo brands will be watching the development of autonomous vehicles very closely and how their communications might be able to assist the whole sector, as well as the manufacturers within it.
“When we first started thinking about our Vision Zero initiative in the 2000s, we were not aware that autonomous vehicles would develop so quickly,” recalled Ivarsson. “But they are a very positive step, and we are keen to see how the market matures. At the moment, we are proud that it is possible to get two companies to share communications and systems; that was always the goal with Connected Safety, and we are looking to get more companies to come on board in the near future.”